Tue Feb 4, 2014
Whenever the cold and/or snow has decided to give me a break the past month, I've spent my time outdoors trying to get a killer basic rotisserie chicken. As much as I love the delectably skin and juicy meat of a rotisserie bird, I'm a man who loves big flavor in his food and would trade subtlety for excess on most occasions. That's one reason these planked chicken quarters with lemon and herb were one of my favorite chicken dishes to date—you get that chicken flavor, but the acidic lemon and fresh herbs bring it to heights that makes a comparatively plain chicken dish pale in comparison.
If I'm cooking chicken only to please myself, I'll choose dark meat almost every time (fried chicken schnitzel is one rare exception to that self-imposed rule where I use chicken breasts). The dark leg and thigh quarter excels in flavor and texture compared to white meat thanks to a larger amount of fat and myoglobin created by the work those muscles get throughout the bird's life. This also renders it a more forgiving piece of meat when it comes to cooking, but even if the risk of drying it out is lower, I still opt to give my dark meat a brine before grilling. A quick 30-60 minute soak in a salt water solution will further enhance the juiciness of the meat.
While the chicken quarters brined, I went to work on the sauce. Looking to take things in a somewhat bold flavor direction, I started out with a few cloves of garlic mashed into a paste that were then slowly simmered in olive oil, infusing that oil with a ton of sharp garlic flavor. Adding to that already strong base was a half a cup of fresh lemon juice along with hefty portions of rosemary, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and black pepper to form one potent sauce.
Out of the brine, the chicken was patted dry and brought out to the grill. I knew I wanted to plank this chicken, but didn't want using that indirect method to sacrifice browned and crisp skin. So I started the quarters off over direct heat, cooking them until they developed color and some texture on the skin.
They were then set to the side while I moved a couple of well soaked planks over the hot fire. As wisps of smoked started to emanate from the planks, they were flipped and transferred to the cool side of the grill. This method grilling a plank first helps accelerate the process of getting that woodsy flavor into the chicken.
Each plank was then adorned with chicken quarters, and that chicken got a healthy brushing of the lemon and herb sauce. The grill was then covered and the chicken continued to cook until it reached 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. A final brushing of sauce and the chicken was ready for consumption.
I had started these quarters off by cutting a few slits in them in hopes the sauce would penetrate the meat more deeply, and I totally got what I after. The meat was tender and juicy, but the flavor was dominated by the bright acidic lemon, fresh herbs, and garlic. It was a mixture that wasn't so heavy handed that it drowned out the chicken altogether though, rather I would say it enhanced what is an otherwise somewhat boring piece of meat. I'll admit the skin isn't transcendent in a way a great rotisserie bird's can be after being cooked in its own rendering fat, but bite for bite, I'd take these more flavorful chicken quarters just about any day.
Planked Chicken Quarters with Lemon and Herb
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 1 Hour
- Cook Time:
- 30 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 1 Hour 45 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Brine
- 2 quarts cold water
- 1/3 cup Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 4 whole chicken leg and thigh quarters
- For the Baste
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium cloves garlic, mashed with a pinch of salt into a paste
- 1/2 cup lemon juice from about 4 lemons
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 wood grilling planks, soaked for 1 hour prior to use
- To make the brine: Whisk together water, salt, and sugar in a large container until salt and sugar are dissolved. Cut 3-4 slashes down to the bone on skin side of chicken. Submerge chicken quarters in brine. Place container in refrigerator and brine for 1 hour.
- To make the baste: While chicken is brining, place olive oil and garlic paste in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. When oil starts to bubble around garlic, remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove chicken from brine, pat dry with paper towels. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place chicken over hot side of grill, skin side down. Cook until skin is browned and slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to tray.
- Place planks over hot side of the grill until they start to char and smoke. Flip planks over and move to cool side of grill and arrange chicken quarters on top of planks skin side up. Brush chicken liberally with baste. Cover grill and cook until chicken registers 165 degrees when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of thigh, 20 to 30 minutes more.
- Transfer chicken to serving platter and brush with baste again. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.